In a review of--among others--Jon Agee's Nothing for the New York Times (and a former NJFK Book of the Week,) author Emily Jenkins writes:
"The buried lessons in highly entertaining classics like "Where the Wild Things are" and "Millions of Cats"--or in popular new titles like "Fancy Nancy" and "Library Lion"--are more engaging than those in books that explicitly exhort children to like themselves, eschew prejudice, value love over material objects and other such morals, important though they are."
Amen! It seems that in recent months I have been sent to review more than one picture book hitting me over the head with the "it's-good-to-be-different" hammer. Adults don't like a heavy handed approach, and neither do children. Perhaps the number one reason why I prefer to read children's literature over adult literature (unless it predates the 20th century) is that the story is still alive in children's books. So much modern, "grown-up" literature seems to be more about making a point rather than telling a tale. The best books manage to do both. But it should always be the story, not the moral, that sticks.
As for Ms. Jenkins, a prolific author, start with Toys go Out and Love You When You Whine.